Agusta chopper deal: BJP targets Congress

Seeking to corner Congress over allegations of corruption in the Agusta Westland deal, BJP on Wednesday sought an explanation from Congress, while the opposition party hit back, asking why the Modi government had cancelled the process of blacklisting the firm in question.

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AgustaWestland deal: Under fire Congress dares BJP for discussion

The Congress Party, which has been cornered by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the controversy surrounding the AgustaWestland chopper deal, today dared the ruling dispensation at the Centre for discussion on the same.

Talking to the media after a meeting chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her official 10, Janpath residence here, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge expressed his disappointment over a report published in a leading English daily with regard to the VVIP helicopter deal.

“We will move an adjournment notice for discussion. There is a report published in a newspaper…We are ready to discuss the Augusta Westland issue in the Parliament,” Kharge said.

The meeting, which was attended by several Congress leaders including Anand Sharma, Randeep Surjewala and Jyotiraditya Scindia, comes in wake of a report published in The Hindu wherein James Christian Michel, the accused middleman in the chopper deal, has offered himself up for questioning by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Michel told The Hindu from Dubai yesterday that he was willing to answer all questions from the Indian investigators in order ‘to clear’ his name, but insisted he had never met the Congress president or a ‘single Gandhi’ in his life.

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who has moved a notice for discussion on the AgustaWestland chopper deal in the Rajya Sabha, today told ANI that the Congress Party must support the probe in this regard.

“I can’t corner the Congress Party; they have got nothing to hide. They must support me. I am only saying that expand the investigation of the CBI because you had set up the CBI and you confined it only to the Air Marshal, and now, the Chief of Air Staff says he only signed the documents put before him by the UPA ministers,” Swamy said.

“You (Congress) have already few names from Italy in the document form and more importantly, it is a judgment of a high court level in Italy,” he added.

BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi has moved a notice for discussion on the chopper deal in the Lok Sabha.

Agusta Westland’s Rs 3,600 crore contract for supplying 12 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force was scrapped by the UPA government over charges of paying kickbacks to Indian agents. In January 2013, India cancelled the deal and the CBI was assigned to investigate the matter. (ANI)

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Duvvada SEZ inferno subdued: Navy (Update)

The Indian Navy on Wednesday said the massive fire at a bio-diesel manufacturing plant in the Duvvada Special Economic Zone (SEZ) near Visakhapatnam has been subdued and would be brought under control soon.

“Fire seems to be under control, but it’ll take another four to five hrs to bring situation completely under control… Indian Navy is here since last night and we have deployed 15 fire tenders for fire fighting,” Indian Naval officer Rajesh Shetty told ANI.

“Twelve fire tenders including foam types have already been deployed by the navy. Medical teams and quick reaction teams continue to be on standby,” he added.

Meanwhile, a Dornier aircraft of the Indian Navy conducted an aerial recce over the facility this morning, confirming that eight tanks were still ablaze.

The fire, which erupted in the Biomax Company around 7.30 p.m. yesterday, has become a massive challenge for the authorities due to the presence of highly inflammable material in the plant’s premises.

According to reports, eighteen tanks of fuel and raw materials were present at the Biomax’s unit at the time of fire. No causalities have been reported so far.

Such was the intensity of flames that Eastern Naval Command was pressed into service to aid the local authorities. (ANI)

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Security beefed up in Srinagar ahead of Amanullah Khan’s funeral

Security has been beefed up and restrictions have been imposed around the Lal Chowk and Maisuma area of Srinagar today ahead of the funeral of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) founder Amanullah Khan, who passed away at a Rawalpindi hospital yesterday.

Khan, the father-in-law of Kashmir’s regional party People’s Conference President Sajjad Gani Lone, breathed his last at 8:30 a.m. this morning.

The 82-year-old leader, who was born in the Astore area of Gilgit on August 24, 1934, was also the co-founder of the Kashmir Independent Committee in 1963. He was elected Secretary General of the JK Plebiscite Front (PF) in 1965 and Co-founded the JK National Liberation Front (NLF) with Maqbool Bhat.

Reports had said that his funeral would be held today in. (ANI)

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